Looking at Klay Thompson’s stat line after Game 1 of the NBA Finals, you would think he had played one of the worst games of his season.
While that might be true on the offensive end of the floor, don’t discount the shooting guards’ contribution to his teams’ demolition of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
6 Points, shooting 3 of 16 from the field is a rough night for anyone, but when you’re one half of the splash brothers, the fans and team are expecting a much better return – especially in the NBA Finals.
Kyrie Irving is going to score, that’s a fact of the game. Limiting his contribution is the only option, and a tough option at that. Thompson’s focus heading into the game was clearly on being able to contribute on the defensive end – and from tip off, it was clear that he was going to cling to Irving like a glove.
Thompson’s impact hit hardest on the interior. Any time Irving, or another of the other Cavs’ players took the ball to the rim the quick adjustments in the Dubs defensive ration collapsed forcing a steal or a rushed shot.
After their big win, Warriors coach Mike Brown made a point to address some points that he felt were a key to shutting down the Cavaliers, and one of those was centered around Thompson’s defensive effort.
“Give Klay Thompson a ton of credit” says Brown, “he’s out there fighting over screens, getting hit, trying to contest, trying to rebound, trying to do it all for us defensively. And then offensively he just keeps playing the right way. “
“That’s what we love about him.”
Thompson himself acknowledges that his team need to shut down the Cleveland 3 point shooters that can blow a game wide open, so getting out to shots is critical. “You’ve got to make them beat you one-on-one” he says, “Over the course of the game, it’s hard to do. I think that wears guys out.”.
Even though the isolation offense was thwarted by Thompson and his team mates in Game 1, LeBron James reinforced after the loss that his team won’t be switching up the way that that play your game just because it didn’t have the impact they wanted on Thursday night.
“(Isolation play) it’s part of our (James and Irving’s) game, it’s what got us here”
Reducing the impact of Irving on the game force Cleveland to rely on their supporting players to step up and contribute. Unfortunately, in Game 1 some of the players that have been relied on in the past – namely Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert, failed to get in rhythm.
“We need them to be themselves” says LeBron James. “(They need to) Follow the game plan, have their mind into it.”.
Defense may have been Thompson’s focus in Game 1, but we know that a big game is coming at some point in this series. Even though that might seem like a big expectation, it’s like water off a ducks back when it comes to the Warriors shooting guard.
“I play hard on both sides of the ball. I play as hard as I can. Even when I’m missing shots, one thing I control is my defense. I try to be effective out there.”
Game 2 of the NBA Finals takes place on Sunday.
Featured image: USA Today